Pass it Around
Why Dylan hired the Hawks and the Forgotten Great Band Gig
Now that Robbie Robertson finally has new product (which is fine...reviews have been mixed, but I reckon one Robbie is worth a few dozen anyone else, so no complaints) It also gives me a chance to mention a few things I love.
One is the smoky, wailing chugalug screamer Ronnie and the Hawks did live in the early 1960s, Who Do You Love. At the time Robertson was a teenager and he could make that guitar shout. It is just great and it is just hilarious. The full 8 minutes appears on the Levon and the Hawks boot CD "Old Shoes" from an early Toronto club date. Dig around and thank me later. On the basis of this track alone, probably the best document of what that bar band could do, it is no wonder Dylan took them on the road with him.
I don't know what Ronnie fed the boys, but it kept them playing and with rage. The track is from 1964 and it ain't the Beatles kids. Now boys in The Band had their share of groupies...in this performance you can almost hear the panties come at the stage and I imagine the whole group stayed up very late that night. Ronnie even does some pimping for them.
The second is one of the greatest live shows The Band ever gave. Now that is no small claim. Rock of Ages with Allen Toussaint horns? Strong. The Last Waltz? The last great concert! But hear me out and hear this disc.
Roosevelt Stadium no longer exists. In the shadow of Manhattan, just across the Hudson and torn down in 1987. Man, did they have a sound man. Of course, if you look at the stack of amps The Band was traveling with in those days, you probably couldn't do much but stuff cotton in your ears and hold on...but this is the most crisp and clear bootleg you will hear. It cranks. They must have been in a damn good mood and whoever mixed the show caught every note.
The Band were perfectionists. The may look kinda wild, but they were well-rehearsed stiffs when they did stadiums. They prided themselves at replicating the sophisticated sound of their records down to the minute. What sets THIS set apart are Robbie's unusual long solos. Yep...he jams! The Band NEVER jammed. Why he choose to stretch out a bit and wail on this show is unknown to me, but you'll be amazed. Why Robbie didn't include songs from this show on The Musical History is a mystery too. Maybe they never got the dub. I'm glad someone did.
You can get an idea here but my CD makes even this seem like a hand held cassette recorder set under a folding metal chair, it has drops and smudges not on the disc. A version of Don't Do It over six minutes long and with every instrument distinct. Still you'll hear the treble, the bass runs and a good solid stomp from the sangin' drummer from Turkey Scratch.
I don't know where you'll find the 1964 live pounder from the Toronto club date, but go fish. It smells like a bar and it makes the (great) duet with Clapton on The Last Waltz sound just pretty.